10 random acts of kindness you can do today

random acts of kindness

February 12th sees the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week. I don’t care much for these types of campaigns – although I’ll admit National Doughnut Day has made me reconsider – but if there’s something to raise awareness about, being kind to one another does nothing but good things in my book.

From a mental health perspective, showing kindness to a stranger is incredibly powerful. You’ll never know how important a welcoming smile could be to a person with anxiety, or offering your parking ticket to someone who’s so stressed that they forgot to bring change for the meter.

As someone with depression and anxiety I also take pleasure in being kind to others. It can lift my mood, make me feel productive and worth something on days when my brain wants me to feel otherwise.

1. Give to a homeless person

Since living in Birmingham I’ve become very aware that homelessness is a real problem in this city. I pass a homeless person almost everyday on the way to work and I try and give him something to eat. If you can do this today then I know it would help.

2. Give a stranger a compliment

I work in a customer service environment so I meet hundreds of people everyday. I regularly have an inner dialogue which goes something like this, “She has a lovely smile. I love her top. She’s so friendly”. Then I go on with my day and forget all about it. The few times where I’ve actually vocalised a compliment to a stranger have always ended well. People love to receive compliments!

random acts of kindness blog mental health blogger

3. Buy someone a coffee

This is my go-to act of kindness when I’m feeling generous. Who doesn’t appreciate a free coffee? Ask your mate out for a drink and don’t let them pay or simply take a hot drink into work for someone who needs it. You won’t regret it.

4. Listen

We all have those friends or colleagues who can talk for Britain. If like me, you tend to zone out when they speak then try and spend today really listening to what they have to say. It could be that you actually find it interesting!

random acts of kindness mental health bloggger

5. Tip your server

As a cafe worker I’m obliged to ask that you consider us who prepare your food and beverages everyday with a smile. OK I don’t smile all of the time but believe me, I’m making a huge effort not to look grumpy when we make eye contact. I can guarantee you that a generous tip does not go unnoticed to us minimum wage earners, so consider popping an extra few coins in the jar on your way out today.

6. Send someone flowers

Valentines Day may have passed, but giving someone fresh flowers never gets old. It might be an elderly neighbour who helps feed your pet or the childminder who always goes the extra mile for your little ones, but whoever it is you can be sure a surprise bouquet will put a smile on their face.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger

7. Giveaway something you don’t need

Cleaning out your closet is a great place to start if you’re looking for something to giveaway. I recently gave away a few brand new t-shirts that were too small for me and I was glad they went to someone who wanted them. You might find you have something of use which you can give to a friend, if not just fill up a box for charity.

8. Offer your services for free

If you run a business then why not run a competition where someone can win something that you would normally charge for? Or you could simply pick one of your customers at random and give them a special discount. These little freebies are also a great marketing tool that give your business the human touch.

9. Give to a charity

Instead of buying a sandwich at lunch, why not bring in a home made meal and put a fiver in the nearest charity box? You could also donate a box of unwanted clothes or household items to your local charity shop or sign up to a fundraising event like a run or walk.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger UK

10. Make the call

Remember, you don’t need to spend a penny to be kind. Promise yourself that today you’ll make that call you’ve been avoiding. It might be your mum, a sibling or an old work friend that’s gone off the radar for too long. It only takes a few minutes but it can make someone’s day.

Tweet me and let me know what random act of kindness you performed today!

Why I’m grateful for my family

gratitude mental health blogger UK

It’s that time again where I want to set my other work aside and practice gratitude. This is a task I’m taking great pleasure in if I’m honest, and I didn’t realise just how much I have to be grateful for until I started this challenge. I’m also joined by Lu Lu Blue who is doing this challenge too.

I won’t talk about my husband today as he got an entire blog post dedicated to him last week, instead I want to talk about my close family. I come from a small family. It’s just my parents and my two brothers and I. We are a quiet bunch of folks and we get on pretty well.

Here are a few specific things I’m grateful for and why:

My parents always encouraged extra-curricular activities. My younger brother Colin played football and my older brother Stuart has been a drummer in a band since he was a teenager. I was in a drama club, played piano and loved drawing and writing as a kid. We were always expected to try our best in school, but as long as we could promise mum and dad that we ‘tried our best’ we were never judged for our grades. This helped build our social skills and let us express ourselves creatively in a way which has made us who we are today.

We’ve all done stupid stuff. Thank god that we’ve stuck by each other through it all. No one holds a grudge in my family and we all remember the good – and embarrassing – times more than anything else. When we get together we generally have a laugh about stupid shit we’ve done and enjoy it. There’s no judgement.

We live apart but it’s not too bad. One of my brothers now lives in Australia, and although it’s hard not to see him at family events I’m grateful that he’s found a partner and settled down in an exciting new place. I’ve moved away from Scotland too (only to Birmingham, so not quite so far) and I’m grateful that my parents still make the effort to come and visit me as much as possible. I’m also grateful that they forgive me when I get busy and forget to call them for a few weeks. I need to work on that one!

Above all, I’m grateful for the unconditional love I receive from all of my family members. As someone with depression and anxiety it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve become a burden to others when I’m going through a particularly bad period. I know I have family I can rely on and I can ask them for anything. That’s what I’m most grateful for.

 

 

Year of gratitude week 2: Spouse

 

It time to explore the year of gratitude again, and I’m so excited to talk this week about how grateful I am to have my husband! If you like this post then check out this post from LuLu Blue on the same subject.

I don’t think you need to be in a relationship to be happy. Quite the opposite in fact; you need to be happy in yourself to develop a good relationship. I don’t talk much about my marriage online because it was my choice to start blogging – not his – and it’s not my place to start sharing our private life online. There are however a few things I want to highlight;

He has showed amazing strength throughout my mental illness

When I quit my job and soon realised I was unfit to work at all, he was incredibly supportive. He didn’t make me feel guilty about being unable to provide an income to our household and even though I often felt like I wasn’t contributing, I never felt under pressure to go back work until I was ready. I acted irrationally for many months. My social anxiety was particularly crippling but he was always by my side in those situations where I felt I might have to ‘escape’ at any moment. As soon as I needed to leave I gave him the secret nod and off we would trot, calmly without any fuss. This was an immense help to me because when I felt like a total weirdo he didn’t question it.

grwhat i'm grateful for 2017

He brought me to Birmingham

When he was offered his dream job in June 2016 and given a month to relocate, I didn’t think twice about screaming “Yes! Let’s go”. I’ll admit I had some teething issues when we first arrived – no surprise there – but I’m so happy we left Glasgow to come here. Obviously I still pine for real potato scones and Irn Bru on tap but Birmingham has given me so many opportunities with regards to blogging, work and meeting new people. I’m pretty sure I would never have ended up here (geographically and mentally) if it wasn’t for him so I’m incredibly grateful for that.

He accepts me entirely

We forget when we fall in love that things change. People’s interests and desires grow and adapt over time and this has been true for me over our 12 year relationship. When we met I was a rock-chick who slurped cider for breakfast. Now I’m a gym-addict who loves nothing more than a night in with a face mask and a bowl of soup. I’ve been a size 20 and a size 10. I’ve had a well-paid management job and now I work for minimum wage. No matter what decision I make or how I think I look to others, I know that I’ll always have the unconditional love of my husband.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Year of gratitude week 1: Why start this challenge?

mental health blogger uk gratitude 2017 challenge

If you didn’t catch my post earlier this week, click here to find out more about the year of gratitude challenge that I’ve decided to try out on my blog.

I won’t lie. I kind of decided to do this at the last minute. I was at my in-laws house over Christmas and I was hiding in our allotted guest room whilst my husband was out with friends. I’d hit the wall with socialising and needed some time to myself. Whilst scrolling through Pinterest I came across this pin listing 52 writing prompts in relation to gratitude. Had I stumbled across this in the middle of August, it’s likely I’d have thought ‘nice idea’ and moved on. But with New Year’s Eve imminent and the thought of a new calendar of blog posts to plan, the concept seemed interesting. Here are a few specific reasons…

Weekly deadlines

When it comes to goal setting I’m a firm believer in ‘fake it until you make it’. I will set a deadline or sign up for something that seems totally unattainable, knowing deep down that the act of setting the goal is what forces me take action to make it happen. When I signed up to run a half marathon several years ago I knew that I would do it because I’d booked and paid for my place. I didn’t think about the end goal much, just the steps I had to take to get there. I announced it publicly – albeit just on Facebook – which it held me accountable; another mind trick I regularly use on myself when I’m putting off doing something. I like the idea of having a weekly schedule of ideas to write about from a blogging point of view. More importantly, I like that I will be reflecting on my life in a positive, helpful way on a regular basis. I believe this is going to set me up to have a strong, healthy outlook over the next 12 months.

My mental health

I’ve overcome some things in 2016 that I’m really proud of. I didn’t plan to do most of them but for whatever reason, I felt confident enough to try and I wasn’t disappointed. I started writing more regularly, made progress with my social anxiety, started to work through my body image problems and faced up to my issues around food. Blogging about mental health has been a cathartic process for me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I hope I always have the ability to write in some form, and committing to this challenge is a way to secure that for the next year. I know it will help me work through some negative thoughts as well as give thanks for everything that’s brought me to this point.

grateful for 2017 mental health blogger UK fiona thomas

Share the love

I make myself cringe when I read some of the crap I drone on about on here, and I’m fully aware that I sound like some self-proclaimed internet ‘life coach’ when I say you get what you give in life. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times before, but I truly believe that you receive the energy you give out. When you are constantly negative then your life becomes negative by default. I use the word ‘energy’ with no spiritual connotations; it’s merely the best word I can find to describe what I mean. I want to use this challenge as a way to send out positive energy about all the good things in life. I want to point out the small things that make my world a happy place, even when I’m not necessarily happy myself. Suffering from depression means that those days will certainly come, but I know making time to pick out the good will help me ride out the storm until it passes.

What are you grateful for today?

Why I’m not dieting this January (even though I’m a size 16)

no dieting mental health January body positivity

A few years ago I would’ve planned a fresh new blog post ready to go live featuring my favourite fat-loss tips for January, or how to ‘get back on track’ after Christmas. Now, I can’t be f*@ked with all that. 

I still love eating healthily because it gives me the energy to do the things I enjoy, but apart from that I’ve kind of given up on weight-loss. I’ve been there, living the ‘fitspo’ life, and I’m done with it. Here’s why…

I’ve been thin and it wasn’t all that

A lot of people look back on pictures of themselves when they looked different and have distorted memories about how they really felt at the time. When I look back on pictures of myself aged 18 and weighing approximately 200lbs, I was overweight but having the time of my life. I had just moved away from home, started university, was meeting new people everyday and learning who I really was. I was socialising like mad and I was incredibly happy. When I was at my leanest – aged 27 – I was battling depression, anxiety, obsessively over-exercising and following a very low calorie diet. I was still happy but I was very tightly wound and had strict rules about what I ate and was constantly hungry, leading to poor brain function and irritability. I’m not saying that you can’t be thin and happy; but don’t put all your eggs in one basket thinking that it’s the answer to all of life’s problems. You’ll still have problems no matter what weight you are.

Restriction isn’t sustainable

It took me years to understand that pretty much every diet is destined to fail. It’s not your lack of will power that lets you down; it’s the fact that you’re restricting yourself so much for so long that your mind and body inevitably cannot do it any more. The penny started to drop when I read a book called Intuitive Eating, although I still did a few years of crash-dieting before what I read began to make sense in my head. I’ve tried to explain to people that a)learning to love your body as it is will stand you in better stead than trying to change it and b)dieting is almost 100% guaranteed to fail in the long term. The truth is, I didn’t believe it myself until I’d dieted for 12 years, lost approximately 60lbs and gained it all back in the end. Sometimes you have to live through that to see that you’re not the one person that’s going to ‘stick to the plan’ and prove everyone wrong. I get it. Just take it from someone who has restricted food groups for most of my adult life; IT DOESN’T WORK.

You’re not defined by your aesthetic

I’ve written before about how when I feel really low about my body image, I like to remember how I look at other people. I very rarely look at someone and think much about what they look like in a typical sense. I’ll perhaps notice a nice necklace they’re wearing, the smell of their perfume, how friendly they were, if they smiled or held eye contact with me. When I look at my friends and family I see their personality traits; I genuinely don’t think about what they look like in a negative way whatsoever, so the chances are no one else is giving a crap about what I look like either. No one is noticing my double chin, my muffin top and my hairy legs and if they ARE then frankly, they need to get a life. I know that what I bring to the table is more important that a thin body, so why fixate on that small, insignificant part of me?

Your brain can do so much more than just count calories

When I was fixated on counting calories it honestly didn’t leave time for much else. I was always on my phone figuring out what I could eat that day and scrutinizing food labels to see which had the fewest calories. I was always trimming calories at every opportunity, but never eating a proper meal to compensate. I ‘had to’ exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes per day (ideally double that) so my mind and body were both exhausted. I didn’t realise the perpetual use of will power combined with a low calorie diet was draining away all my brain power. Since I’ve stopped fixating on food and exercise I’ve had the energy to socialise and write everyday, which are two things I don’t want to give up.

Food is amazing

I’m sure you’re aware of how flippin’ fantastic food is. We can’t survive without it and we are lucky enough to have almost any kind we desire at our fingertips in plentiful amounts. It’s a great way to socialise, show gratitude, celebrate and commiserate. We don’t need to overindulge but sometimes it’s nice. It’s such an important part of our world that it seems wrong to cut it out and stop ourselves from enjoying it. I’m not saying we should eat what we want, when we want all the time; but maybe its time to loosen up and appreciate what we have?

Have you given up on dieting?

 

 

Why I’m making 2017 the year of gratitude

2017 mental health blogger UK gratitude

I’m always trying to be more mindful.

I’m getting better at it thanks to the odd yoga class and learning to put down my phone once in a while but of course, it’s all rather difficult.

Learning to count your blessings is difficult when you have depression. I feel empathy for complete strangers and bruise easily about causes which I don’t necessarily relate to my own life. I can feel heartbroken thinking about something I did year ago, and that inconsolable dread that accompanies my condition is sometimes hard to shake.

I’m slowly getting better though, and felt inspired when I stumbled across this post on Gurl.com and liked the idea of following the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge. Over the next year I’m aiming to write a short blog post each topic on a weekly basis as a way to document my journey of learning to be more grateful. Here’s the topic list in full if you want to join me….

52 weeks of gratitude mental health blogger UK

If you don’t blog then I think this is still a great tool to give you a writing prompt every week to reflect in your personal journal, or even just spend a few minutes peacefully reflecting on what you’re grateful for.

What do you think?

 

5 easy ways to feel more calm

ways to feel more calm less sressed and manage anxiety throughout the day
I’m pretty stressed sometimes. Did I pay that bill? Did I leave the oven on? When is that doctors appointment again? These are the thoughts that plague most of us throughout the day and they tend to build up and can feel a tad overwhelming at times. I’m working hard to make sure I don’t let unnecessary stress into my life as it’s a trigger for my anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you then read on for my tips for a calmer day…

Prepare the night before

I like to empty my mind in the evening by planning what I need to do the next day, and doing any preparation possible to help me feel a little more organised. For example, I like to lay out my gym clothes to make sure I get up and go work out without too much thought. I also like to make sure my dishes are done and my bathroom is relatively clean. For some reason starting the day with an organised space makes me much more relaxed from the get-go. I’ll also put any bin bags by the door so I can quickly grab them on the way out. Doing small things like packing my handbag, preparing my breakfast or laying out clean clothes are all small tricks that make my day go more smoothly.

Write a to-do list

This is pretty obvious but I’m always surprised at how many people don’t do this, especially busy people who have a lot of multitasking to do. I have an ongoing to-do list which I’m always adding things to, even if they don’t necessary need done straight away. Every evening I use this ‘master list’ to write a specific list for the next day. I prioritise what needs done first and then add anything else that I’d like to tackle, then if it doesn’t get done I can carry it over to tomorrow’s plan without too much panic.

Schedule in some down time

When I look at my to-do list it can be easy to go full steam ahead and keep going until it’s complete. I’ve learned from experience that this normally ends up with me freaking out around 4pm, struggling with a pounding headache, an empty stomach and the need to nap. For this reason I try to break up tasks with something enjoyable. For me this is often something simple like watching my favourite You Tubers for an hour or popping out for a coffee and some fresh air. I find scheduling in this time makes me more productive for the rest of the day and helps me relax in general.

Eat a good breakfast

Missing breakfast is guaranteed to stress me out, because my blood sugars will get low when I least expect it and then I start making irrational decisions based on hunger pangs. In order to avoid major mid-morning meltdowns I start my day with a protein shake or scrambled eggs on toast. This usually helps me stay satisfied and focused on whatever the day brings instead of feeling distracted by my rumbling belly. I love this post which has a few handy mood-boosting meal ideas. Don’t forget to keep an emergency snack in your handbag such as a banana or some cashew nuts, and drink plenty of water.

Exercise

Apart from writing, my other true love is exercising. I know not everyone has the same passion for working out (I will admit my passion can be absent at times too!) but I defy anyone to not feel great after a morning exercise sesh. A brisk walk with the dog or a run around the block before breakfast gives you time that no one can take away from you. It’s a special time to take a deep breath in and appreciate the day before it gets too hectic. It gets you warmed up, produces endorphins and creates that kick-ass “I can take on the world!” mindset that we all dream of having.

What helps you have a calm day?

10 dieting habits I’ve given up in 2016

giving up unhealthy dieting habits and learning to live a healthy balances lifestyle

One thing that went unnoticed when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety was my fixation on food. As my condition got worse I was obsessed with fitness and eating healthily, two obsessions which are often seen positive factors in someone’s life. For this reason I’ve never had my eating problems medically diagnosed, and have struggled to get my eating habits back to what I consider normal. In the past year I’ve come on leaps in bounds in this aspect of my life, as well as working towards a more positive body image. Here’s what I’ve stopped doing in 2016…

Tracking calories

I used to have My Fitness Pal on the homepage of my phone screen so that I could input everything I ate throughout the day. Ideally, I would record all the food I was planning to eat the night before so that I could plan exactly what I would eat and what ‘treats’ I could fit in throughout the day. The problem with calorie counting for me was that eventually fitting in treats became the main goal, so I would eat very low calorie foods like salad and vegetables in order to eat a bar of chocolate straight afterwards. Fat has more calories per gram that protein or carbohydrates so I would avoid most fats to keep calories low. Little did I know that fat consumption is extremely important for maintaining a healthy body and it started to affect my hormones and brain function. Ultimately I became too focused on calories instead of the quality of the food I was eating, so I gave up.

Eating clean

No one can actually define what ‘clean eating’ is, so why the hell should I try an emulate a vague statement that so many people are hailing as the next big thing? Some people include honey, sweeteners and cereal bars and others don’t even allow the use of salt or heaven forbid, shop-bought products. They would have you grow everything from scratch in your own garden and eat it raw, whilst others are publishing books packed with ‘clean’ brownie recipes. It takes way too much brain power to figure out the rules never mind actually abide by them.

Always choosing the ‘healthy’ option

After years of reading tips on how to eat low calorie meals the go, at work or in restaurants I became a seasoned pro at selecting the ‘healthy’ option in any given scenario. This meant substituting fries for salad, bread for more salad and dessert for a cup of tea. I still try to eat a well balanced diet most of the time but when I’m in a restaurant or in a rush I don’t stress as much as I used to. I try to listen to my hunger cues and eat to satisfy those instead of making a ‘perfect’ meal.

The ‘all or nothing’ approach

I’ve had those bad days which involve eating family size boxes of biscuits, pot noodles and peanut butter straight out of the jar. I’ve even planned for those exact days after weeks of restrictive eating where I munched on only carrots and chicken to get my goal weight. I would load up on all the junk food I wanted and cram it all into one massive binge session happy in the knowledge that I would be back on my low calorie, no junk plan the next day. The guilt associated with this was extremely upsetting, as the binge never made me happy in the way I thought it would. Days later I would be sick of restricting and be planning another mammoth eating session and the cycle continued. I’m now a firm believer in “a little bit of what you fancy does you no harm”.

Eating less than 1000 calories per day

This is just stupid, and anyone who advocates this type of meal plan should be avoided like the plague.

unhealthy dieting habits I've given up in 2016

Meticulous meal-planning

Obviously planning your meals is a great way to get organised and helps with creating shopping list and sticking to a budget. I still like to batch cook meals in the form of soups, chilli and cottage pie and have them in the freezer for when I’m in a rush or have nothing fresh in the fridge. I am however, totally over the idea of planning every single meal and snack for the entire week. A meal plan which is that detailed is perfect for someone who needs educating on portion sizes and which foods are best in a balanced diet. I feel like I know enough about food and how my body works to make those choices myself. It also means I can eat more when I’m hungry, less when I’m full and go ‘off plan’ without feeling like I’m a total failure.

Relying on caffeine

When I was creeping towards my goal weight (just writing that makes me feel slightly sick) I was at the tail end of a year-long diet which was starting to take it’s toll on me mentally and physically. I was constantly tired, hungry and cranky whilst nervously counting down the hours to my next meal. I would stay awake with black coffee and caffeinated diet sodas only to find I would crash an hour later. If it wasn’t time to eat I simple cracked open another drink and waited nervously. I dread to think what my body was doing to cope with the lack of calories and the excess caffeine. Now I have one or two coffees a week, sometimes none at all.

Cutting out carbohydrates

Not happy with cutting out fats I tried to limit my intake of carbohydrates too. I considered them ’empty calories’ as protein is supposed to help you feel satisfied for longer so I decided they weren’t worth worrying about. I would eat bolognese without the spaghetti, a bacon sandwich without the bread and roast dinner without the roast potatoes. I’ll never go back.

Exercising to compensate for over-eating

I used to exercise everyday for at least 90 minutes and up to 3 hours per day. I was so terrified of gaining weight that I would factor in extra workouts before or after a big meal to try and burn off the extra calories. This is reasonably sensible but probably not essential when my idea of a ‘big meal’ was a slice of toast. Now I exercise a few times a week and try to fit in classes like yoga to help with my mental health.

Avoiding eating out at restaurants

The prospect of eating out at restaurant was extremely stressful when I was in a severe calorie deficit. On one hand I knew it was safer to eat the food I cooked myself to know exactly what was in it, but on the other hand every fibre of my being was screaming out for a big plate of something delicious. The cravings were so intense that I would normally go but I had to know in advance exactly where we were going so that I could plan what I would eat, ideally with a look at the menu beforehand. It really took the joy out of what is supposed to be a fun, sociable experience. Nowadays I eat out 2-3 times a week and eat until I’m full with whatever I’m craving at the time.

What diet habits have you given up? Are you ready to start 2017 with the aim to love your body more?

 

 

How to deal with negative people and feeling drained

negative people drained tired positive

I ran a poll on Twitter asking how to deal with negative people. Overwhelmingly the response was ‘avoid them’. Pretty harsh don’t you think? Everyone’s allowed a good old moan once in a while; in fact I think it’s healthy to get your grievances out in the open. Letting them fester and grind you down only breeds resentment and unhappiness, so I think we should all feel free to talk about what’s pissing us off without fear of being deemed ‘the negative one’. But when you’re faced with someone who is so continually unhappy, when every word that comes out their mouth is a ‘poor me’ sob story – how should you deal with it? I know that it can personally leave me feeling drained, lifeless and in need of an energy boost. Here’s my advice on how to stay happy whilst dealing with this…

Establish if it’s a one off

You should first of all, go into the situation completely open minded. It’s easy to presume you know what someone is going to say before they’ve even opened their mouth, but try and ignore how they may have overreacted in the past and listen carefully to what they are complaining about. Is this something that they complain about regularly? If not then maybe it’s just a one off. If that’s the case then they should be allowed to get it of their chest, be a good mate and listen. You never know when you might need them to listen to you whinge about losing your bus pass on the way home. Whatever is bothering them might not seem important to you but it clearly is to them.

Let them vent

This can be hard. When someone wants to highlight everything bad that has ever happened to them from primary school to present day, it will test your patience. However, it is helpful to let them vent. Shutting them down or trying to change the subject will only make them feel insignificant, giving them more reason to feel sorry for themselves. Take time to let them get it all out of their system and then you can offer and advice or pearls of wisdom you have hidden up your sleeve.

Have a moan as well

Fuck it. Screw positivity and seeing the silver lining on every cloud. Sometimes we all need to wallow in our own unhappiness for a few hours whilst eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. If you’re friend is complaining about something that you identify with -or something that you simply can’t seem to comfort them about – get stuck in there too and bitch about life.

Be active

If you know you’re going round to a friend’s house and they’re destined to be in a stinker of a mood, try and entice them into doing something to take their mind of it. Using up nervous energy is great way to release your natural endorphins too so exercise is a great option! You could suggest swimming, yoga or even a walk around the shops to help act as a distraction. I would also recommend getting them to try something out of their comfort zone as the feeling of satisfaction you get after doing something you’ve always avoided is exhilarating. Even something as simple as baking a cake together can lift someone’s mood. This will also help keep your mood elevated if you’re starting to feel the weight of acting as agony aunt 24/7.

Don’t let it affect your mood

OK, granted this is easier said than done but try your best to not take on other people’s baggage as your own. You can be a wonderful friend just by being available and lending a shoulder to cry on, you don’t have to solve anyone else’s problems for them. Take it all in and afterwards try to forget about it as much as possible. This might seem insensitive but it’s important to keep your own head straight. Practising mindfulness is a great way to do this as it forces all thoughts out of your brain, leaving you with nothing but empty space and time to breath, relax and feel ready to create your own happiness.

 

Blogging for introverts: heaven or hell? 

blogging for introverts mental health UK

I was going to name this Tips for introvert bloggers! But then I realised I don’t actually have any tips, and I haven’t yet figured out if the whole world of blogging is actually a good thing or a bad thing for introverts. Is it heaven or hell?

Well first of all, no one ever thought to tell me that I was an introvert. Annoying really, because since I figured it out myself a few months ago it’s made me so much more aware of my behaviour, and has offered a somewhat reasonable explanation for why I act so weirdly unsociable at times. I’m one of those people that can’t do too much in one day. My idea of hell is going on holiday with someone who uses an itinerary. Get out. I need down time, and lots of it thank you very much. I’m more than happy to climb up the Eiffel Tower with you but don’t expect a conversation all the way to the top, and at least reward me with a pain au chocolat break at the bottom. I need pit stops even in Paris.

In my day to day life, this means time to recharge between working and socialising with friends. It means leaving all the washing to pile up for a few days whilst I focus on sleeping more. It means going to the gym when I really should be making dinner. I need designated me time and a lot more than the average person.

When it comes to blogging, this need to be alone and reflect is actually a great thing. One of the things that helps me recharge is letting all my thoughts and feelings out in a blog post which I then share on the Internet! A little unorthodox but strangely therapeutic, you should try it. I’ve started writing everyday and I find it really helps me get things off my chest, allows me to relax without being lazy and gives me a sense of accomplishment without needing to be overactive or (heaven forbid) talk to others.

On the other hand, what comes along with blogging is the social aspect. Yes, the social aspect is mostly online; responding to comments, talking on Twitter, reading and complimenting other blogs – easy peasy. But realistically, I want to grow my audience and improve my content so there are a few instances that require, dare I say it, human interaction. I don’t have to go out and meet fellow bloggers, and the nature of my work means I can talk to them all online, but I’m scared that if I stop meeting new people I’ll somehow forget how to do it completely. I’ve written about how blogging has improved my mental health but I don’t think it’s a substitute for talking face to face with people, and improving on my social skills for when they’re required. There’s no shortage of bloggers and You Tubers who are plagued with anxiety and depression; in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking it was included in the job description. Many of us claim blogging has given us a rewarding creative outlet and a way to talk to like-minded people, but the truth is it also gives us an excuse to hide behind a laptop, to tap away on our phones and avoid going out for the most part.

My advice? Enjoy the benefits. Enjoy the alone time that comes with blogging, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because on the other side of fear lives success. To prove I’m not a total hypocrite I’ve even booked a place on my first bout of social media training, the Social Day in Birmingham, and I’ve joined all my local blogging chats to stay in the loop about the next meet up I can attend. I’ll keep you all updated and report back, I know I’ll survive and the positive outcomes will be worth every struggle.